Parkinson, Siobhán 1954–
Parkinson, Siobhán 1954–
Born November 23, 1954, in Dublin, Ireland; married Roger Bennett (a teacher and woodturner), 1978; children: Matthew. Education: Trinity College Dublin, B.A. (English and German), 1976, Ph.D. (English literature), 1981.
Writer and editor. Royal Irish Academy, assistant editor, 1980-83; freelance editor, 1983-87; C.J. Fallon, Ltd. (educational publisher), editor, 1987-89; CBT Systems, head of technical writing, 1989-95; Focus Ireland (charity), editor and writer, 1995-97; Town House publishers, managing editor, beginning 1998; Inis: The Children's Books Ireland Magazine, co-editor. Writer and freelance editorial consultant; presenter at workshops.
Bisto Book of the Year shortlist, 1994, for Amelia, and 1996; Bisto Book of the Year 1997, for Sisters … No Way!; Bisto Merit Award, 1997, for Four Kids, Three Cats, Two Cows, One Witch (Maybe); Bisto Merit Award, and International Board on Books for Young People Honor designation, both 2000, both for The Moon King; Reading Association of Ireland Award shortlist, 2001, for Call of the Whales.
Up to Dublin!, illustrated by Cathy Henderson, O'Brien Press (Dublin, Ireland), 1992.
The Dublin Adventure, illustrated by Cathy Henderson, O'Brien Press (Dublin, Ireland), 1992.
The Country Adventure, illustrated by Cathy Henderson, O'Brien Press (Dublin, Ireland), 1992.
The Leprechaun Who Wished He Wasn't, illustrated by Donal Teskey, O'Brien Press (Dublin, Ireland), 1993.
All Shining in the Spring: The Story of a Baby Who Died, illustrated by Donal Teskey, O'Brien Press (Dublin, Ireland), 1995.
Amelia, O'Brien (Dublin, Ireland), 1993.
No Peace for Amelia, O'Brien (Dublin, Ireland), 1994.
Sisters … No Way!, O'Brien (Dublin, Ireland), 1996.
Four Kids, Three Cats, Two Cows, One Witch (Maybe), Irish American Book Company, 1997.
The Moon King, O'Brien Press (Dublin, Ireland), 1998.
Cows Are Vegetarians, O'Brien Press (Dublin, Ireland), 2001.
Animals Don't Have Ghosts (sequel to Cows Are Vegetarians), O'Brien Press (Dublin, Ireland), 2002.
Kathleen: The Celtic Knot ("Girls of Many Lands" series), Pleasant Co. (Middleton, WI), 2003, published as Kate, O'Brien Press (Dublin, Ireland), 2006.
FOR YOUNG ADULTS
Breaking the Wishbone, O'Brien Press (Dublin, Ireland), 1999.
Call of the Whales, O'Brien Press (Dublin, Ireland), 2001.
The Love Bean, O'Brien Press (Dublin, Ireland), 2002.
The Thirteenth Room, Blackstaff (Belfast, Ireland), 2003.
Second Fiddle; or, How to Tell a Blackbird from a Sausage, Puffin (London, England), 2005, published as Second Fiddle, Roaring Brook Press (New Milford, CT), 2007.
Something Invisible, Roaring Brook Press (New Milford, CT), 2006.
Blue like Friday, Penguin (London, England), 2007.
Author's works have been translated into several languages, including Latvian, German, Finnish, Italian, Portuguese, Slovene, Lithuanian, Hungarian, French, Russian, Thai, and Spanish.
(Editor) Home: An Anthology of Modern Irish Writing, A. & A. Farmar (Dublin, Ireland), 1996.
(Editor) A Part of Ourselves: Laments for Lives That Ended Too Soon, A. & A. Farmar (Dublin, Ireland), 1997.
Work included in anthology First Times, edited by Robert Dunbar, Poolbeg (Dublin, Ireland), 1997.
Considered one of the most popular authors of teen fiction in her native Ireland, Siobhán Parkinson studied English literature and German at Trinity College Dublin, then worked as an editor for several years. She began her writing career creating books for younger children as the result of a family tragedy and the need to explain the concept of death to her young son, Matthew. The result was the poignant All Shining in the Spring: The Story of a Baby Who Died, about a young boy's attempt to deal with the death of his baby brother. Waiting approval for her first manuscript, Parkinson was encouraged to write several more stories, and this advice produced books such as The Country Adventure and The Leprechaun Who Wished He Wasn't. In the mid-1990s, in response to the maturing literary tastes of her chief editor—Matthew—Parkinson turned her attention to older readers, producing the middle-grade novel Amelia. In the years since, she has continued to address herself to a young teen readership in books such as Sisters … No Way!, Something Invisible, The Moon King, and the quirkily titled Second Fiddle; or, How to Tell a Blackbird from a Sausage.
In Amelia and No Peace for Amelia Parkinson sets her story in her native Dublin and takes readers back to 1914 and the years leading up to World War I. Fourteen-year-old Amelia Pimm, the daughter of an affluent Quaker family, finds her friends abandoning her as her family's financial means decline, but a new friendship with a servant girl named Mary Ann allows her to navigate her changed status. As critics have noted, Parkinson immerses readers fully in the era, which experienced technological changes such as the telephone, and also worried whether Great Britain would become involved in the war then raging in Europe. In No Peace for Amelia Mr. Pimm has somewhat improved his family's economic status and Amelia, now age sixteen, has fallen in love with a young soldier heading for the European front. Meanwhile, friend Mary Ann is concerned about the attention her brother is attracting due to his activism in the fight for Irish independence. In each of these novels, "Parkinson's young people are refreshingly normal and relatively angst free," according to a St. James Guide to Children's Writers essayist.
Original in format, Parkinson's young-adult novel Sisters … No Way! is a two-sided book that incorporates the diaries of cynical and rebellious Cindy and conservative Aishling, two stepsisters who have been united in the same family due to their parents' marriage. Each diary presents a unique take on the same series of events, allowing readers to get to know two teens and their unique perspectives. The St. James Guide to Children's Literature reviewer described Sisters … No Way! as "a clever, thought-provoking book which uses the interplay of … two narratives" as a means of illustrating the fact that "there is no one truth, no one reality, only life as viewed through different eyes."
Parkinson flirts with mystery in The Thirteenth Room, in which the death of a fifteen-year-old girl named Miriam on an estate in rural Ireland casts a long shadow. Nine years after the girl's death, a young, naïve nurse named Niamh arrives to care for Miriam's uncle, Taggart. Master of the house, Taggart is dying, and as his constant companion Niamh quickly realizes that there are aspects of Miriam's tragic death that have yet to be resolved. With little help from either family or friends, Niamh eventually uncovers the truth, but finds that her own fate may be wedded to that of the long-dead girl. In World Literature Today José Lanters commented on the novel's inspiration—the story "Marien-kind" by the Brothers Grimm—and explained that, in Parkinson's Gothic adaptation, "the story's positive outcome has been removed." Praising the novel as "fresh, original, and carefully wrought," a Kirkus Reviews writer noted that The Thirteenth Room maintains "foreboding and dread without falling into pathos."
The perspective of twelve-year-old Mags Clarke is one of the highlights of Second Fiddle, an amusing novel that also "deals gently with friendship and sensitive family issues," according to Booklist contributor Heather Booth. As recounted in prose that reflects the enthusiasm of an aspiring young writer, Mags and her newly widowed mom have recently moved to a new town. Her new friend is Gillian, an aspiring violinist who enlists Mags's help in locating her non-custodial father in the hopes that he will help her fund an education at a prestigious music school. Booth dubbed Mags "a lively narrator," noting that alternating chapters are written by Mags in the voice of the slightly older Gillian. "Readers will quickly warm to this winning heroine and the quirky characters who surround her," concluded a Publishers Weekly contributor in praise of Second Fiddle. In Horn Book Vicky Smith deemed May "a true original" and Parkinson's novel "a pleasure."
More serious in focus, Something Invisible was praised by a Publishers Weekly contributor as a "memorable" and "insightful novel." Parkinson's story centers on eleven-year-old Jake, a sensitive boy who dreams of becoming a painter. While Jake has a good relationship with his mother's boyfriend—the man has raised Jake since infancy—he is hurt that his mom waited until the birth of her second child, Daisy, to marry him. Fortunately, a new friend named Stella, along with the members of Stella's loving if somewhat chaotic family, allows Jake to express his confused feelings over the changing dynamic in his own family. Reviewing Something Invisible for Publishers Weekly, a contributor wrote that Parkinson presents a "heartbreaking and uplifting story of what constitutes friendship and family," while Smith called the book a "careful exploration of relationships and perspectives." In her review of Something Invisible for the London Guardian, Adèle Geras described the novel as "deceptively simple," adding that "Parkinson conveys in simple language the most complex of emotions, and the dialogue is perfectly judged." In Kirkus Reviews a reviewer described Something Invisible as a "careful exploration of relationships and perspectives" that is "told with humor and insight."
Other popular novels by Parkinson include Four Kids, Three Cats, Two Cows, One Witch (Maybe), in which a stuck-up girl named Beverley snubs the locals at a town where she is forced to spend the summer, but ultimately learns to judge others by less-materialistic standards during a boat trip to a nearby island. Parkinson introduces a loner named Ricky in The Moon King, an award-winning novel that finds the teen attempting to fit in at the home of his new foster family. Geared for older teens, Breaking the Wishbone finds a group of runaway and abused teens banding together in an abandoned building and a new community despite their poverty and lack of hope. She returns to Dublin's history in Kate, a novel published as Kathleen: The Celtic Knot when it was incorporated into Pleasant Company's "Girls of Many Lands" series. Set in the 1930s, the book finds a preteen excited when a nun's suggestion results in Irish-dancing lesson, but worried that her family's impoverished circumstances will prevent her from entering the competition culminating her dance studies. Reviewing Kathleen in Horn Book, Lauren Adams wrote that Parkinson's novel features "a light hand, sharp wit, [focus on] serious social issues, and a hint of subversion," all of which combine in a story that combines "humor and understanding."
Biographical and Critical Sources
St. James Guide to Children's Writers, 5th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Booklist, February 15, 2007, Heather Booth, review of Second Fiddle; or, How to Tell a Blackbird from a Sausage, p. 80; March 1, 2006, Jennifer Hubert, review of Something Invisible, p. 91.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November, 2000, review of The Leprechaun Who Wished He Wasn't, p. 116; May, 2006, Deborah Stevenson, review of Something Invisible, p. 418.
Guardian (London, England), February 11, 2006, Adèle Geras, review of Something Invisible.
Horn Book, January-February, 2004, Lauren Adams, review of Kathleen: The Celtic Knot, p. 89; May-June, 2006, Vicky Smith, review of Something Invisible, p. 324; March-April, 2007, Vicky Smith, review of Second Fiddle, p. 200.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2004, review of The Thirteenth Room, p. 709; February 15, 2006, review of Something Invisible, p. 189.
Publishers Weekly, February 20, 2006, review of Something Invisible, p. 157; February 19, 2007, review of Second Fiddle, p. 170.
School Library Journal, April, 2006, Tracy Karbel, review of Something Invisible, p. 145.
World Literature Today, September-October, 2005, José Lanters, review of The Thirteenth Room, p. 108.
O'Brien Books Web site,http://www.obrien.ie/ (April 20, 2007), "Siobhán Parkinson."